Having suffered a stroke which kept her from working throughout most of 1977 and 1978, Waltons regular Ellen Corby gallantly (albeitly briefly) returns to the role of Grandma Walton as the series inaugurates its seventh season. Unfortunately, Grandma is now a widow; actor Will Geer had died in April of 1978 -- and so, logically, did his series character, Grandpa Walton. Also missing from the series is oldest son John-Boy Walton, actor Richard Thomas having left the series to pursue other acting opportunities. Of the remaining Waltons, Mary Ellen (Judy Norton-Taylor) moves out of the family home and into an apartment with sister Erin (Mary Elizabeth McDonough), and later becomes addicted to prescription drugs while studying for her nursing finals. Brother Jason (Jon Walmsley), an aspiring entertainer, lands a platters-and-chatter job on a local radio station -- and with war clouds gathering (the year is 1941), he considers registering as a conscientious objector. Finally, Elizabeth Walton (Kami Cotler) turns 13, whereupon brother Jim-Bob (David W. Harper) valiantly offers to teach her to drive. Tragedy stalks the Waltons throughout Season Seven. Mary Ellen receives a letter from the war department, notifying her that husband Curt was killed in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor; and Mary Ellen's mother Olivia (Michael Learned) contracts tuberculosis and heads to a sanitarium (this plot device was developed because actress Learned had announced her plan to leave the series -- at least as a regular). But on a happier note, Mary Ellen's brother Ben (Eric Scott) impulsively marries a cutie named Cindy Brunson (Leslie Winston). There was talk in the industry that the seventh season of The Waltons would be the last. In case this happened, the season's final episode "Founders Day" was cunningly written in a manner that it could serve as the series finale if the show did leave the air -- or could merely be just another episode if the property was renewed.